Tag: technology

  • Clive Lawson’s Technology & Isolation (ch 1-3)

    What is technology? I often use the term overly loosely to refer to devices, as well as the distributed systems in which they are embedded. In Technology & Isolation Clive Lawson observes how the term is “frequently portrayed as knowledge, as artefacts, as ways of doing things, as any means to an end, as a […]

  • The missing skill of technological reflexivity

    In this essay from Critical Digital Pedagogy: A Collection, Howard Rheingold recognises his “complicity in the creation of today’s digital culture” and “outright seduction by high-tech tools” (16-17). He suggests that the orthodox tradition of scientific thought has left us in a pre-scientific predicament when it comes to the application of technology: We lack a […]

  • To see the machine we need to dispense with the Weberian legacy on technology

    In The Future of Social Theory Nicholas Gane draws attention to Weber’s remarks about technology and how they shaped the treatment of related questions in the discipline. As Gane puts it on pg 3, “In this perspective (which runs from the nineteenth century through to today), sociology is only to be concerned with objects and […]

  • Techno-nationalism and technological innovation

    In a fascinating account of the private space programs of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Christian Davenport explains how the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) has its origins in the geopolitics of the Cold War. From pg 59: Eisenhower entered the room at 10: 31 a.m., and decided to get right to it, asking, “Do […]

  • Putting agents, ethics and politics at the heart of our account of platform capitalism

    Notes for week 4 of the CPGJ Platform Capitalism Reading Group I thought this short talk by danah boyd was really powerful in linking the utopian dreams of internet radicals to the anxieties and outcomes of work. Framing the future of work in terms of automation, as if that says everything which is needed to […]

  • Getting beyond pro and anti in our thinking about technology

    A few weeks ago, I saw a collaborator of mine give a talk in which he outlined a position on social media which was roundly cast as anti-technological by those in the room i.e. reflecting an unsustainable blanket judgment of social media as a category of technology. I could see where they were coming from […]

  • What Happened? The end of modernisation

    In the last few days, I’ve been reading Hilary Clinton’s What Happened and reflecting on it as an expression of a political centrism which I suspect is coming to an end. These self-defined ‘modernisers’ sought to adapt their respective political parties to what they saw as a new reality, necessitating that they be ‘change-makers’ while […]

  • The question of the human in philosophy of technology 

    Over the next few years, I’ll be working on a collaborative project on trans- and post-humanism, building on the Centre for Social Ontology’s previous Social Morphogenesis series. My main contribution to this will be co-editing a volume, Strangers in a Familiar Land, with Doug Porpora and Colin Wight as well as exploring digital technology and […]

  • The Technology of Intellectual Work

    In 1988 Pierre Bourdieu chaired a commission reviewing the curriculum at the behest of the minister of national education. The scope of the review was broad, encompassing a revision of subjects taught in order to strengthen the coherence and unity of the curriculum as a whole. In order to inform this work, the commission early […]

  • Technology, regulation and disruption

    One recurring theme in Brad Stone’s excellent The Upstarts is how technological assumptions encoded into legislation become focal points for conflicts with ‘disruptive’ companies. For instance, as loc 2348 illustrates, the novel dispatch system used by Uber complicated the distinction between taxis and livery cars: Stressing that Uber cars were not hailed or even electronically hailed […]

  • “Open, good. Closed, bad. Tattoo it on your forehead”: Placing the technology sector in social and economic history

    I’m currently reading Thomas Frank’s One Market Under God, a remarkably prescient book published in 2000 which has a lot of insight into contemporary cultures of technological evangelism. The book is concerned with what Frank sees as a transition in American life from a form of populism predicated on cultural reaction to one grounded in […]

  • How universities shape the technology developed for them

    From The Monsters of Educational Technology, by Audrey Watters, loc 563: Why are we building learning management systems? Why are we building computer-assisted instructional tech? Current computing technologies demand neither. Open practices don’t either. Rather, it’s a certain institutional culture and a certain set of business interests that do. What alternatives can we build? What […]

  • Varoufakis on contemporary capitalism’s preposterous reversal of the truth

    This isn’t a new idea but I’ve rarely encountered it expressed so concisely: The idea that individuals create wealth and that all governments do is come along and tax them is what Varoufakis calls “a preposterous reversal of the truth”. “There is an amazing myth in our enterprise culture that wealth is created individually and […]

  • the sociology of executive coaching

    As you may know, executive coaching is an increasingly common phenomenon, particularly in some sectors like tech. This is how Eric Schmidt and his co-author describe the necessity of it in How Google Works loc 2440: Whenever you watch a world-class athlete perform, you can be sure that there is a great coach behind her success. […]

  • what if we talked of digital ‘weeds’ rather than ‘viruses’?

    From Spam, by Finn Brunton, pg 89: “Alan Solomon . . . a veteran antivirus researcher with a PhD in economics, critiqued the virus metaphor, suggesting that this medical/ biological metaphor of ‘virus’ is ‘too emotive’ . . . Instead, he proposed ‘weeds’ as a more appropriate concept for describing the threat of computer code.” […]

  • algorithms, situated judgements and imposed patterns

    An interesting case discussed on pg 85 of Unforbidden Pleasures, by Adam Phillips: We may live in the aftermath of the myth of the Fall, and the even longer aftermath of the myth of Oedipus, but the first traffic lights were invented in the United States after the First World War. The traditional mutual accommodation travellers had been […]

  • the recursive loop of technological metaphors for subjectivity

    One of my major irritants is technological metaphors for subjectivity, not least of all because I slip into invoking them myself when I use terms like ‘cognitive load’. The underlying idea that ‘the brain is like a computer’, as well as the complex network of associated metaphors leading from it, frustrates me because it seems […]